Rapper, artist, actor

Pioneer in Vietnamese hip-hop

How can you write engaged lyrics in a country restrained by censorship?

Wowy – born in Saigon 29 years ago – is lucid about the system in which Vietnam evolves. He understands the Vietnamese paradox: the song ‘I am in love with the coco’ from O.T. Genasis can go live on the public TV channel owned by the government, and at the same time, a Vietnamese artist can be censored for one bad word on politics, society, drugs or sex.

A few years ago, Skate, BMX or hip-hop dance in the streets were still forbidden. Nowadays, the police let the dancers dance, under certain conditions. And before a public event can happen, the government has to check and approve each expressed ideas. They won’t hesitate to forbid one song or to put white sheet on top of what is ‘disturbing’. 

So, the Vietnamese artists express themselves on online platforms such as YouTube or Soundcloud. They enable a little more freedom, even if it’s not completely true. The government expressed its point of view when Wowy and his old friends from South Ganz Entertainment posted the song “ Làm Việc Nước “. (See below).

« Hip-hop is bridled. I don’t know how to keep writing engaged rap without freedom of speech. »

It would be much easier to make smooth songs about love in a well-ordered life. The money would be great and censorship wouldn’t be a problem. But Wowy knows these topics have nothing to do with him: rap music is not a tool to become rich and famous, but to express its own truth without any concessions. Wowy wants to be true to himself and to write lyrics to make the Vietnamese mindset evolves. So when it is not possible in his songs, Wowy has other hidden talents to express himself.

One of his last projects was to work with the artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen. They explored how to raise awareness among Vietnamese people about preserving their eco-system. If they don’t change their habits, the extinction of species will be dramatic. One is free to make a subtle parallel with the current Vietnamese society. Majorities of people waste, abuse of raw materials and of plastic, and focus on a western culture with American artists. How will evolve Vietnamese culture and environment under these conditions?

« Vietnamese people need to wake up before everything disappears. They need to realize how rich our culture and environment is. »

In Wowy’s opinion, it is time to wake up, to realize how rich the Vietnamese culture and environment are, to rebalance its daily life and move forward in a different and pondered way. It is time to take care of its roots and to make it evolves.

Where I live”Wowy + Karik / 2010.

The first video contributing to Wowy’s success, made with the rapper Karik.
6 hours of live filming, to show their neighborhood and the way to survive in it.

Làm Viec Nuoc” South Ganz Entertainment / 2014

“Làm Việc Nước”, South Ganz Entertainment, a ‘just for fun’ crew in 2014. “Nước” has two meanings: water or homeland. The lyrics of the song can be understood in two different ways: either it is about water, alcohol and girls or about the oppression of the government towards the people. The Vietnamese government captured this last meaning. Then, 2 rappers of the crew left Vietnam to go live in the US, ‘enemy of the communists’. It was enough for Wowy to be on the police database, considered as a dangerous person for the country, “rebelling against the current government”. 

Do it”, no matter what people say / 2016

My Ailing Beliefs Can Cure Your Wretched Desire & Empty Forest  / 2017

Tuan Andrew Nguyen
Regular collaboration with Wowy

Project made with the artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen. The project’s aim is to alert the general opinion on environmental issues. Vietnam is a country with numerous different species, that will disappear if the mindset doesn’t change.

The rise of Vietnamese hip-hop” Vice / 2018
Produced early May 2018 by Robin & Cako for Vice

Vice gathered the pioneers of Vietnamese hip-hop to discuss about the future. How can they move forward altogether for raising the Vietnamese culture inside the hip-hop culture, still new and underground over there?

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